The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the conviction of Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel in a 2015 rioting case, reported Bar and Bench.
In July 2018, a court in Gujarat’s Mehsana district had sentenced Patel and two of his aides to two years in jail for rioting and arson in Visnagar town in 2015. Patel was leading a protest to seek reservations for his community, the Patidars.
In March 2019, the Gujarat High Court had granted Patel bail and suspended his jail sentence but refused to stay his conviction. The ruling had effectively banned Patel from contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which were held between April 11 and May 19.
A person facing a jail term of two or more years cannot contest elections, according to the Representation of the People Act.
The Congress leader had then in March 2019 moved the Supreme Court against the High Court’s refusal to stay his conviction.
On Tuesday, a bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath said that it was a “fit case” for the Gujarat High Court to have stayed Patel’s conviction.
Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Patel, argued that not allowing his client to contest elections amounted to infringing his freedom of expression, reported Live Law. Singh submitted before the Supreme Court that Patel has already lost his chance to contest 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, told the court that the decision to suspend the conviction should be based on criminal law and not on whether Patel wanted to contest elections.
Mehta said that were were serious allegations against Patel under Section 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code.
The court, however, granted relief to Patel.